29 MARCH 1940, Page 26

Bureaucracy Run Mad. By Martin Abbotson. (Watts. is. 3d

Tins is a jolly little book which the author must have greatly enjoyed writing. One reads it with one haunting discontent— that it is not illustrated, preferably by Strube. For this is the plain man's—the Little Man's—quintessential grouse against the Powers that Be ; the powers that blacked out London, commandeered hotels and schools, emptied the hospitals, muzzled Fleet Street, conceived the Ministry of Information, and ." left nothing of Billingsgate except the language." As the author explains, it contains no fresh information ; it is only a compilation, with comments. Doubtless most readers could supplement it from personal knowledge ; perhaps knowledge of razor blades set to cut grindstones, of amateurs confirmed in office while professional skill is unused, perhaps of gross ex- travagance or of absurd parsimony, perhaps of the irritating ways of pocket-Hitlers rejoicing in unwonted authority. But even so, what conclusion is one to reach? Apparently—though this premise is left unexpressed—Mr. Abbotson believes that it would have been better, cheaper, fairer and safer to do without controls, and let business wag on as in peace-time, leave Fleet Street to its own conscience and prices to the mercy of the private trader, and to adhere, for all purposes of emergency defence, to the slow procedure of normal Parliamentary legisla- tion, and the fortunes of the market. Is that really believable? Mr. Abbotson would have done better to attack not the principle of control but the intelligences behind it, with their perceptible guiding principle that conformity matters more than ability, and a few good wires to pull more than anything else in heaven and earth.